Does Sparkling Water Contain Aspartame or Artificial Sweeteners?

Sparkling water with fruit

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The beverages we put into our bodies often have confusing labels, and that can make things difficult if you have certain dietary restrictions or goals. It’s reasonable to ask whether or not sparkling water contains aspartame, sucralose, erythritol, or other artificial sweeteners.

The average person and the United States Food and Drug Administration would likely say two different things about whether or not sparkling water contain aspartame or other artificial sweeteners. The FDA’s definition allows sparkling water to contain aspartame. But, the most popular beverages labeled as sparkling water do not contain any artificial sweeteners.

Orange slice in sparkling water

The Colloquial Definition of Sparkling Water

What you probably think of as sparkling water – also known as club soda, soda water, seltzer, mineral water, or fizzy water –  does not contain any artificial sweeteners.

LaCroix, Bubly, Perrier, and other widely popular brands contain no sweeteners of any kind. In a health-conscious age, this lack of added ingredients is typically a key selling point.

These types of beverages are simply composed of carbonated water. The drink is made either by injecting water with carbon dioxide gas, or by bottling naturally sourced carbonated water. Some sparkling water may contain minerals and other dissolved solids such as potassium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, or potassium sulfate. These minerals have been linked to health benefits such as cholesterol and blood pressure regulation.

Additionally, sparkling water commonly contains natural or artificial flavoring – often citrus, berry, or other fruit flavors. Most brands are vague about the contents of this mystery flavoring. However, some brands provide a bit of explanation. For example, LaCroix’s website says “The flavors are derived from the natural essence oils extracted from the named fruit used in each of our LaCroix flavors. There are no sugars or artificial ingredients contained in, nor added to, these extracted flavors.”

So colloquially speaking, sparkling water does not contain any sugar or artificial sweeteners, and that includes aspartame. If you are attempting to avoid artificial sweeteners for any reason, most brands of sparkling water will meet that standard. However, the official definition of sparkling water provided by the FDA may surprise you.

The FDA’s Definition of Sparkling Water

The Food and Drug Administration classifies soda water (including sparkling water) a little more broadly. It says “No product shall be excluded from this definition because it contains artificial sweeteners or discrete nutrients added to the food such as vitamins, minerals and protein.”

That means, according to the FDA, sparkling water can contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, or natural sweeteners like stevia. Under this broad definition, sparkling water can include brands such as Sparkling Ice (which contains sucralose, an artificial sweetener). This brand also uses artificial colors, which are certainly unnecessary and potentially harmful.

Which Sparkling Water Does Not Contain Aspartame?

The good news is that most brands of sparkling water do not contain aspartame or other artificial sweeteners. Here is a quick, non-exhaustive list of some popular options you can count on:

artificial sweetener on a spoon

Is Aspartame Bad for You?

There is a lot of skepticism surrounding artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and erythritol. You may have heard that these sugar replacements can cause cancer or other serious health problems. They are commonly found in liquid, powder, and tablet forms of water enhancers.

While researchers haven’t conclusively linked aspartame to any health problems, it’s probably best to keep intake levels low – just as we should with real sugar.

So far, the FDA nor the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have made conclusive discoveries regarding any aspartame-related health effects. Early studies did find a link between the sweetener and cancer when testing rats. Scientists have not replicated that finding with humans.

The FDA concluded that “the use of aspartame as a general purpose sweetener… is safe.” Meanwhile, the EFSA has stated, “Studies do not suggest an increased risk associated with aspartame consumption for… leukaemia, brain tumours or a variety of cancers, including brain, lymphatic and haematopoietic (blood) cancers.”

Manufacturers have been adding Aspartame to foods and beverages since 1981. Since then, no ill effects have been linked to the substance, including cancer or other serious diseases. Still, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners remain controversial in the public sphere, with many consumers skeptical of potential long-term health consequences.

Does Sparkling Water Contain Sugar?

Most sparkling water does not contain any sugar – including the majority of popular brands in the US. In terms of added ingredients, sodium is somewhat common, but only in very small quantities.

Certain brands, such as Spindrift, do contain some sugar. In the case of Spindrift, the sugar comes from the fruit juice used to flavor the beverage. It’s only about a gram or two of sugar. Outside of the juice, it contains no additional sugar.

Replacing Sugary Drinks with Sparkling Water

If you are trying to reduce your sugar intake or avoid sugar altogether, sparkling water is a great option. It is just as hydrating as regular water, and it can replicate some of what many people enjoy about soda or beer – the bubbles!

Some people describe sparking water as an acquired taste. If you like the ultra-sweet flavor of soda, you might not appreciate the lack of sugar in sparkling water. For this reason, sparkling water with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame could be a decent soda alternative.